Birkat Kohanim- Every Day in Jerusalem

Birkat Kohanim- Every Day in Jerusalem


In Jerusalem, as well as in many other parts of Israel (excluding certain cities in the north who only have the custom on Shabbat) we are blessed by the Kohanim every day.


In Chutz LaAretz (outside of Israel), Birkat Kohanim (The Priestly Blessing) is only recited on the Shalosh Regalim- Pesach, Shavuot, Sukkot and Yom Kippur.


The Sefer HaChinuch states that the Mitzvah of Birkat Kohanim, where the Kohanim bless the Jewish people at Shacharit, Musaf and Neilah is in force everywhere, at every time.


Why isn’t Birkat Kohanim recited every day or at least on Shabbat in Chutz LaAretz?


Over the years of Galut (exile), different issues arose which prevented or deterred the Kohanim from performing Birkat Kohanim. Some of the questions that came up were: Are the Kohanim pure enough? Are they really Kohanim or did they lose their lineage? Is there enough Kavanah (intent) during the Tefila? Can Jews in Galut be happy on a regular basis or are they too concerned with making a living and are therefore only happy on the holidays?


Rabbi Aryeh Tzvi Frummer z”tl, h”yd (1884-1943), Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Chochmei Lublin who was killed in the Holocaust wrote in his work Eretz HaTzvi that according to the Talmud, Eruvin, the Kohen can’t perform Birkat Kohanim if he is drunk. When one is in exile, it is as if they are drunk since their thoughts are all confused. It would therefore not be proper for them to lead Birkat Kohanim. However, on Yom Tov they are in a state of happiness and are not involved in the confusion of exile so leading Birkat Kohanim on the holidays would not be a problem.


Can those who are not in shul or not even in Israel still benefit from the daily Birkat Kohanim that is recited on behalf of Am Yisrael?


We learn in the Talmud, Sotah 38b: Adda said in the name of Rabbi Simlai: In a shul whose attendance consists of only Kohanim, all of the Kohanim ascend to recite Birkat Kohanim. The Gemara asks: To whom is their blessing addressed if no other congregants are present? Rabbi Zeira said: It is addressed to their brothers who are working in the fields and therefore can’t come to shul.


Even though Birkat Kohanim is not recited in Chutz La’Aretz aside from on the holidays, the Jews throughout the world who can’t move to Israel for whatever reason or the Jews in Israel who are unable to attend services every day due to health or work related issues may still be included in the blessings of the Kohanim in Jerusalem every day.


How ironic that a Charedi rabbi who lives in Jerusalem yet strongly opposes the Zionist State of Israel suggests that Jews who live in Chutz La’Aretz should ask a Kohen in Jerusalem to have them in mind during Birkat Kohanim. If we didn’t have the State of Israel would Kohanim really be able to pray freely on behalf of Am Yisrael?


Sometimes we take the fact that we have the State of Israel and the united city of Jerusalem for granted, another reason why we need the blessings of the Kohanim.


The last words of Birkat Kohanim state: “Viyasem lecha Shalom”, May God establish peace for you.


On this Yom Yerushalayim we pray that Israel will be at peace with her neighbors and that the different Jewish communities within Israel will be at peace with one another.